Sola Scriptura

I read where Scott Hahn (when still a protestant) was asked by a former student “where is sola scriptura in the Bible?” Scott’s reply was “what a stupid question.” The kid’s response: “well give me a stupid answer.” Besides being a classic response, it is also a thought provoking one.

As a pseudo-Catholic, can someone please explain to me where we Protestants get this from and what is the basis for that reasoning? Catholics: why is it wrong? I am asking this genuinely and not in the spirit of “gotcha!” or “your kind are wrong!” I really want some help since this is a topic I am really looking into right now. Thanks.

What does the term *Sola Scriptura *mean to you?

God bless you

As far as I know it means scripture alone is the basis for our decisions as a faith community. It means that the words of councils and others do not carry the same weight as the Bible.

Those two statements are different, though. One can say that other things don’t “carry the same weight” without saying that they don’t form a basis for our decisions at all.

And that’s the fatal ambiguity in the phrase “sola scriptura.” I wish we could stop using it.

Here’s what I think can be said in favor of some version of “sola scriptura”–i.e., for giving Scripture a unique role as the final doctrinal authority:

  1. The Word of God–revelation given to the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New and handed on to us–is the final authority in the Church.

  2. The Church has recognized certain books as being the Word of God in written form. There is some doubt about some of these books (particularly the OT “deuterocanonicals”), but that still leaves a substantial body of material which we all agree is the Word of God.

  3. The early and medieval Church repeatedly described Scripture as the final doctrinal authority, not contradicting the authority of the Church or Sacred Tradition, but rather holding up Scripture as the primary source of Sacred Tradition and as the primary authority to which the Church had recourse in making its decisions. (Please note that the common claim of ill-informed apologists that a text can’t be an authority is sheer nonsense. Medieval scholars understood “authorities” to be texts first and foremost–the etymological connection between “author” and “authority” is no accident.) It was frequently claimed that all necessary doctrine could be found in Scripture.

  4. However, early Christians also repeatedly appealed to “oral tradition” when they could not defend a particular doctrine from Scripture. So we cannot reasonably say that pre-Reformation Christians held to “sola scriptura.” Rather, they seem to have seen Scripture as the primary authority but to have supplemented it by an appeal to oral tradition. And, of course, they assumed throughout that God would not let the Church as a whole get the interpretation of Scripture wrong.

  5. By the time of the Reformation, a reasonable case could be made that many of the things put forward as oral tradition were not genuinely apostolic. (Note that we are not just talking about defined dogmas here but about a host of beliefs and practices which late medieval Catholics would have assumed to be apostolic.) Furthermore, between the East-West schism, the lengthy confusion over who was the true Pope in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, and the ensuing conflict between Pope and Council which had not been entirely resolved by the time of the Reformation, there was a lot of dispute over just how the Church excercised its authority. There was also ongoing dispute about certain of the books of the Bible, as I noted (not just the OT Apocrypha but some NT books such as James and Revelation, which had been questioned in the early Church and whose authenticity was questioned anew by Renaissance scholars–the idea that Luther just decided to question James out of the blue for his own doctrinal reasons is another fallacy put forward by bad Catholic apologists). But that left most of the Biblical canon (the Hebrew canon of the OT, the four Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, 1 Peter, Acts. . . ) as unquestionably the Word of God, recognized by all Christians since very early times. It was thus reasonable for Protestants to fall back on this to resolve their doubts about some late medieval teaching.

If sola scriptura is to be defended in some form, it can only be in a modest and negative form. In other words, we know where the Word of God is (in the 66 books of the undisputed canon–I think most Christians today can agree, as the Reformers came to do, that the disputed NT books have a secure place in the canon and that the attempt to question their authenticity in the 16th century was misguided). We don’t necessarily know where it is not. But in looking to resolve our disputes and agree on those things that are essential for our faith we should look first to the undisputed authority. This is particularly urgent given that at this point in history any claim to “oral tradition” is either a verbal fallacy or a mystical appeal to the Spirit’s guidance. The latter is of course something to be taken seriously, but it’s not the same thing as an appeal to oral tradition in the second century or even perhaps in the fourth, when it was still reasonable to expect that some things might have come down from the Apostles without being written down. At this point in history we are no longer talking about any genuine apostolic tradition that has never been written down. We are talking about alleged apostolic tradition to be found in the writings of the Fathers and other documents of the early Church. Or, as I said, we are talking about the living transmission of truth through the Church–truth which has also been passed down in written form but cannot simply be confined to written words, since it consists of attitudes, practices, etc. and is ultimately to be identified with the living guidance of the Spirit.

Edwin

From my understanding Sola Scriptura is based primarily off of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which states, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

This coupled with the fact that many Protestants (I have heard) say that there is no way to know what oral traditions were left behind as indicated in various bible passages:
Jn 21:25 … not everything is in the Bible.
2 Thess 2:15; 2 Tim 2:2; 1 Cor 11:2; 1 Thess 2:13 … Paul speaks of oral tradition.
Acts 2:42 … early Christians followed apostolic tradition.
2 Pet 3:16 … Bible hard to understand, get distorted.
2 Jn 1:12; 3 Jn 1:13-14 … more oral tradition.
2 Pet 1:20-21 … against personal interpretation.
Acts 8:30-31 … guidance needed to interpret scriptures.
Heb 5:12 … need to be taught.
(collected passages from The Catholic apologist’s scriptural cheat sheet and The Catholic Convert

Then there is lack of recognition for Church/Papal authority and infallibility.

[Added in partial response to Edwin]

Edwin,

You mentioned that early/medieval church looked to scripture as the source of tradition. If this were true than what could be said about the time before the canon was affirmed in the 400s and the Didache of around 70AD details familiar to Catholic today?

You also stated, “This is particularly urgent given that at this point in history any claim to ‘oral tradition’ is either a verbal fallacy or a mystical appeal to the Spirit’s guidance.” If this were true then what of Jesus’ promise to protect the Church from corruption through the Holy Spirit?

As Christ says in the Gospels, we must have faith like a child. We are also taught in Scripture that the Church “is the pillar and bulwark of truth.” If we are to have child-like faith in Scripture then we must accept the entire deposit of faith (written and oral). Additionally, we must also remember that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is also reminding us that everything the Church teaches and holds as dogma (including oral traditions) is not contrary to the Bible but supported by it - the Scriptures affirm what is taught.

I am getting all long-winded…but does everyone see what I am getting at?

2 Peter 1

20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding,*21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. [NLT]

Acts 2

The Believers Form a Community
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper*), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity*—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. [NLT]

1 Thessalonians 2

13 Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe. [NLT]

30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
32 The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter.
And as a lamb is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
33 He was humiliated and received no justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”*

34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?"35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”*38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. [NLT]

Its simple there was an oral tradition from the living Apostles to those of us who are outside that grace we have the Bible. The teacher was needed ,Philip, since the man reading the Bible was not a Christian so had no Holy Spirit to guide the reading that clear from the entire set of passages.

As for Peter its clear in the text to anyone that the ability to understand scripture comes from the Holy Spirit alone, “or from human initiative” can also mean from the study of it and application by say a Council of Cardinals. Depending on ones point of view.

I can point out to passages that also support true faith that are in the Gospels and examples from Jesus ministry that are well known. Blessing the children where one is to have the “faith of a child”. the woman healed by touching the Lords cloak, the healing of the slave of the Roman Officer where Jesus praised the mans faith and even on the statement that enmantled Peter as the first of the Apostles (I’m not saying Pope the leader of the Twelve).

One can do this with most passages where you see the need for one denomination I see a need for none at all ,Roman Catholic or Protestant, and see both as destructive.

I suggest reading 1 John3:27 which John stated the Holy Spirit will discern the truth, I don’t see a Pope or denominational leader or any teachers save that authoirty granted by the power of the Spirit of God. The great teacher and the one that empowered prophet, apostle, disciple or in truth any and all Christians who are in the body of Christ.

=reteeks21-I read where Scott Hahn (when still a Protestant) was asked by a former student “where is sola Scriptura in the Bible?” Scott’s reply was “what a stupid question.” The kid’s response: “well give me a stupid answer.” Besides being a classic response, it is also a thought provoking one.

As a pseudo-Catholic, can someone please explain to me where we Protestants get this from and what is the basis for that reasoning? Catholics: why is it wrong? I am asking this genuinely and not in the spirit of “gotcha!” or “your kind are wrong!” I really want some help since this is a topic I am really looking into right now. Thanks.

This friend is a very mature and thoughtful question. Thanks for asking.

I seldom share my opinion and stick to known and proveable facts, but this time I going to simply apply what I think is provably logical.

Protestantism from the start had to be able to disprove the authority of a then 1600-year-old Catholic Church, and explain why they changed the Bible that they too claim it is “Divinely Inspired.” King James, 2 Tim. 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” Neither task is possible without shading The Singular truth.

Because for the first 1500 plus years of the Catholic Church, the Bible was the “property” of THEE Church, and it was not made available to lay-folk for fear of the spreading of error.

In hindsight one can see the Wisdom of this decision with the proliferation of secs and beliefs in a mere four hundred years of Protestant self-interpretation of their bible.

But the Catholic Church was seen as a “non bible Church” by many, so that is the foundation they decided to exploit. They were after the “masses” not the Ones who said The Mass and fed the “masses.”

It was understood that this would be the stone with which to “kill the Goliath-Catholic Church.” They as an absolute imperative had to discredit the, up to that time, largely unchallenged Authority of the Catholic Church, based on the Bible and God Himself, given to the CC, in Mt. 16: 15-19, and other places as well. If they were to convince, persuade, and cause mass defections from the CC, which was and remains their goal, it would be at the expense of Romes Authority.

Additionally, they had to develop their own Theological positions, that would not make them a simple “me to” alternative, but a plausible option.

Knowing full well that ignorance is bliss, and that awareness of what the Bible in its many pages and thousands of words and ideas would not be easily grasp, this seem the prudent choice. The fact from the get-go that they not only permitted, but encourage private interpretation was Satanic genius for the amount of confusion it spread under the blanket of “freedom of choice” and personal Divine Inspiration, which I suspect they knew is not the case?

What is befuddling, and shows the power and might of God, Divine Providence led them to leave intact the very evidence that disproves their positions. But because of this newfound freedom to formulate ones own understanding, lying was called “personal understanding.” And multiple, alternative “understandings” quickly surfaced to justify one position, with little regard for TRUTH.

God responded, as God is prone to do as clearly evidenced in the OT, to withdraw true Wisdom. True Understanding, and the problem gets increasingly worse, as reading some of these POST makes evident. Not only can they not prove their authority for what has been done and positions held, they also are unable to debunk with any authority, what we Catholics share as the single source of Truth on all matters of Faith and Morals. Many of our current beliefs have been held from the very days and teachings of the Apostles themselves. Only God can make that happen.

So from the start to the present, they were between “The Rock” [The Church] and truth. Truth lost.

Love and prayers,

Pat

Nothing could be further than the truth.

Sola Scriptura came from an enviroment in which there was great, great ecclesiastical abuse. Men and women of God wanted to know where doctricnes had come.Luther when interragated said he would not recant unless it could be shown from scripture that he erred.
The simple gospel of salvation was turned into “another gospel”.

The only problem is no denomination of note uses Sola Scriptura, they fell into many of the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church and into the error of ecclesiastical abuse where men and women decide what is sound doctrine.

I feel all one needs is a decent translation of the Bible and the Holy Spirit with some of those who are Called to some level of ministry to allow the believers to listen to. And those guidelines are easily set down in the NT what makes a good and reliable teacher of the word. No denomination or seminary is needed that is what the Holy Spirit is for.

Just my two cents.

This is a good answer.

I have always thought of Sola Scriptura as “whatever other authoritiies may be out there, I do not take any of them to be incapable of being incorrect”

But this is better.

Therefore I have nothing more to add here.

You would need to be more specific if you are really resting some argument on the Didache, but leaving that aside, it wasn’t the 400s but the 300s in which the canon was pretty much settled. And it’s no accident that that’s when you start finding claims that sound like an affirmation of the “sufficiency” of Scripture–alongside more explicit appeals to tradition as an authority alongside Scripture. In other words, it wasn’t as much of an issue before then because the boundaries were more fluid. And of course a claim of apostolic oral tradition made a lot more sense in the second century than in the fourth, and a lot more sense in the fourth than it would today. Just as the writing of the NT happened as living eyewitnesses were dying out, so the fixing of the canon (which did not happen suddenly in the fourth century but had been taking place for a couple of centuries, beginning at least with Irenaeus) happened as the oral tradition became more and more tenuous. Until the fourth century Scripture *was *appealed to, and I would argue that it was treated as the supreme authority early on as well. The third century was very much a time of transition. But someone like Irenaeus in the late 2nd century could still go back and forth between an appeal to Scripture and an appeal to tradition, because the living memory of apostolic teaching was still quite fresh (he claimed to have been a disciple of Polycarp, who had been a disciple of St. John).

You also stated, “This is particularly urgent given that at this point in history any claim to ‘oral tradition’ is either a verbal fallacy or a mystical appeal to the Spirit’s guidance.” If this were true then what of Jesus’ promise to protect the Church from corruption through the Holy Spirit?

Nowhere in the NT does Jesus promise that the leaders of the Church will not make mistakes, doctrinal as well as of other kinds. Catholic apologists who claim that Jesus made such a promise are obviously reading their assumptions into the text. However, I’m not sure why you ask the question in this way since you just quoted me saying that an appeal to oral tradition today may be an appeal to the guidance of the Spirit. The point I’m making is that this is quite different from a historical appeal to reliable oral tradition. Later doctrinal developments do not result from separate oral tradition that had been handed down secretly until then. (Such an appeal to oral tradition is Gnostic and not Catholic by the standards set forth by Irenaeus. And as Irenaeus pointed out, it’s just not plausible.) Rather, they result from the Church looking at the “monuments of the tradition” and drawing further conclusions from them. And that’s what most of the doctrinal disagreements today are about. There are a few issues: prayer for the dead, infant baptism, maybe Eucharistic sacrifice (is that what you had in mind in mentioning the Didache?), where oral tradition could be used to explain why these ideas are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture. But most of the other issues that divide us are clearly later developments not based on explicit oral tradition but on the way the Church continues to reflect on the faith once delivered to the saints and express it more fully.

My problem with the Catholic position is that a concept of tradition that originally did refer to actual teaching being handed down orally has now mutated into an appeal to the ongoing guidance of the Spirit as the Church deepens her understanding and expression of the deposit of faith. And that’s a separate issue.

As Christ says in the Gospels, we must have faith like a child.

And the implication is what? That we uncritically accept whatever certain ecclesiastical authorities teach? That’s not a legitimate use of this passage.

We are also taught in Scripture that the Church “is the pillar and bulwark of truth.” If we are to have child-like faith in Scripture then we must accept the entire deposit of faith (written and oral).

But many of the points that divide us clearly weren’t handed down orally. No serious Catholic scholar claims that the Immaculate Conception was so handed down. And the Assumption is pretty hard to accept as an apostolic tradition too, which is far more damaging to that doctrine. (The Immaculate Conception can be accepted as a doctrinal development, but one would expect early Christians to have said something about the Assumption in 300 years if it had really happened. The lack of Marian relics is the main argument in its favor, but as far as I know the honoring of relics was confined to martyrs until the fourth century, so that seems like a sufficient explanation.) Transubstantiation is a doctrinal development from the basic Christian affirmation of the Real Presence (although the Real Presence is not mentioned in your beloved Didache, which is mildly unsettling to both Anglicans and Catholics). The same is true of the Trinity. No one thinks that Peter or Paul or John said to an inner circle of disciples: “psst! God is one substance in three persons, and the Eucharist involves the transformation of the substance of the bread into the substance of Christ’s Body while the species remain the same, but don’t mention either of these things for a few centuries.” Indulgences are clearly a medieval development. Purgatory develops out of the early practice of prayer for the dead–which I am willing to accept as apostolic, though I have problems with making this a matter of faith. Given that there doesn’t seem to have been a monarchical bishop of Rome until the later second century, it seems pretty clear that many of the doctrines surrounding the papacy were not thought of until later. Again, these are issues on which Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and secular scholars are broadly agreed. They shouldn’t be controversial (the historical statements I’ve made, I mean).

Accepting that some things, like infant baptism or prayer for the dead, were handed down orally (actually one can find arguable traces of both in the NT, particularly prayer for the dead), doesn’t really solve most of the questions surrounding the Catholic doctrine of Tradition.

Edwin

Actually yours is admirably succinct. I like it very much.

Edwin

=Hisalone-Nothing could be further than the truth.

Sola Scriptura came from an enviroment in which there was great, great ecclesiastical abuse. Men and women of God wanted to know where doctricnes had come.Luther when interragated said he would not recant unless it could be shown from scripture that he erred.
The simple gospel of salvation was turned into “another gospel”.

Really?

*Luke 10:16 “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Eph. 2:19 “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; [singular] in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Mt. 28: 18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” [There was ONLy the CC at this time!]

Acts 20: 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of the LORD [SINGULAR]which he obtained with the blood of his own.”
*

Only the CC benefits from these verses: John 17: 15 I [Jesus] do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I [Jesus] consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth

**2 Cor. 13: “8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.”

Gal. 2: “5 to them we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”

2: Tim. 4: “3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. 5 As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
*

**2 Tim. 1: “13 Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; 14 guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.”

John 16: “12 "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. “*

**Protestant :Mt. Henry on 2 Peter 3:16 “And here the unlearned and unstable make wretched work; for they wrest and torture the scriptures, to make them speak what the Holy Ghost did not intend. Those who are not well instructed and well established in the truth are in great danger of perverting the word of God. Those who have heard and learned of the Father are best secured from misunderstanding and misapplying any part of the word of God; and, where there is a divine power to establish as well as to instruct men in divine truth, persons are effectually secured from falling into errors. How great a blessing this is we learn by observing what is the pernicious consequence of the errors that ignorant and unstable men fall into–even their own destruction. Errors in particular concerning the holiness and justice of God are the utter ruin of multitudes of men. .” **

*1 Tim. 3:15 “if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, [SINGULAR] the pillar [SINGULAR] and bulwark of the truth. [SINGULAR] Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion:”

Mt. 16: 15 He [Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I [SINGULAR] tell you, you are Peter,[SINGULAR] and on this rock [SINGULAR] I will build my [SINGULAR] church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. SINGULAR] 19 I [God SINGULAR] will give you [SINGULAR] the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you [SINGULAR] bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you [SINGULAR] loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Eph. 2:19 19 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; [SINGULAR] in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Eph. 4: 4 “There is one body [One Church] and one Spirit, [One set of beliefs] just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, 5 one Lord,[One God] one faith, [One set of doctrine and dogma] one baptism, By water in the Trinity] 6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
*

Ya, your right there is no bibal evidence:shrug:

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